Growing Edible Flowers

Growing Edible Flowers

When you grow flowers that are edible, you are growing happiness. People love flowers, and when those blooms or their petals are seen in surprising places, they make people smile. There are many flowers that can be added to salads, beverages, or used as a garnish. Here are a few that I grow every year, for the joy of seeing their colors as well as for their flavors.

Every year in the large container near my kitchen door, I grow edible flowers from seed. This bin was planted with an edible flower mix from Botanical Interest Seeds. It contains borage (an amazing blue flower that tastes like cucumber), bachelor’s buttons, (also blue), Calendula (orange), Nasturtiums (orange and yellow) and sunflowers among others. The nasturtiums are especially tasty, having a slightly spicy flavor. The leaves of the nasturtium plants are also edible, and are delicious in salads.

Some of the best flowers to grow for use in the kitchen are these:

Borage: This herb has brilliant blue flowers that taste like cucumber. It is easy to grow from seed. Plant these in full sun. This is also a flower that the bees love, so it’s perfect to support the bees and attract pollinators to your vegetable or herb garden. Borage flowers are lovely floating on a cocktail, or used as a garnish on potato salad.

Borage flowers are a true blue. The plants are tall, and often benefit from support or from being planted next to a fence or wall. Grow borage in full to part sun, either in a large container or planted in the ground.

Calendula: Sometimes called “pot marigold,” calendula can be grown from plants or seeds. The flowers range from peach to orange or yellow, depending on the variety. Pull the petals off of the flower and scatter them on a salad, or on top of vegetables just before serving. The flavor of Calendula flowers is mild.

Nasturtiums: The most versatile flower for the kitchen is the Nasturtium. The flowers are delicious in fish tacos, sandwiches, sushi, or in salads. You can even muddle them in a cocktail shaker and create Nasturtium flavored martinis or sparkling water.

This garden salad was made with home-grown lettuce, beans, broccoli, potatoes, kale, nasturtium leaves, and zucchini. It was garnished with calendula petals, borage flowers, and nasturtium blooms. It was a tasty, and beautiful, celebration of the summer garden.

Mint: Most people use the leaves of mint in beverages and cooking, but the flowers are also edible and whimsical. They are the perfect garnish for beverages, be they cocktails or glasses of iced tea and lemonade. The flowers on apple mint are long and fuzzy, and peppermint blooms are in round clusters up the stem. (See garnish on the drink below…those are peppermint flowers).

This blueberry cocktail was made with lime juice, agave syrup, fresh blueberries and vodka. After shaking these ingredients well with ice, the drink was poured through a strainer and garnished with blueberries and mint flowers.

Bee Balm, aka Monarda: Bee balm petals have a stronger flavor than many flowers. In fact, Monarda flowers taste similar to oregano. For this reason, they are wonderful sprinkled on top of pizza right after you take it out of the oven. A “white pizza,” made with olive oil, garlic and cheese, is especially festive when topped by bright red or pink bee balm petals.

We call Monarda “bee balm” for a reason! But hummingbirds and humans love this perennial plant as well.

Other plants with edible flowers or petals include sunflowers, violas, tulips, summer phlox, and roses. Flowers from arugula, dill, broccoli, and cilantro are also edible, so when these herbs and vegetables come into bloom make use of these blossoms! Be sure the flowers you are eating are organically grown, of course. That’s one advantage of growing your these plants in your own garden…you can be sure that no pesticides are used.

These open face tea or luncheon sandwiches are so amazingly festive! Thin slices of raisin bread were covered with a layer of cream cheese, and then topped with strawberries, apricots, arugula, red radicchio and viola flowers.

Not all flowers are edible, of course, so be sure that you are sure about the identity of a plant before you add it to your plate. Bon appétit!

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